Department of Labor goes modern: Farms can now apply for H-2A visas online
Submitted by Howard B. Owens on September 27, 2012 - 9:29am
Today, Representative Kathy Hochul (NY-26) announced that the United States Department of Labor (DOL), at her urging, will begin accepting online applications for the H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program on Dec. 10.
“I am pleased to announce today that farmers in Western New York and across the country will be able to utilize the new electronic filing system for H-2A visas by the end of this year. This reform will save time and money for taxpayers and farmers and will go a long way toward ensuring our fruit and vegetable growers have the help they need to plant and harvest their crops, expand production, and grow their businesses here in Western New York,” Rep. Hochul said.
“This change is a welcomed one for New York farmers who depend on timely and accurate information when it comes to securing the workforce their farms require. It is imperative as each harvest approaches that family farms have the ability to hire the workers they need in order to have a successful season. We appreciate the work that has been done on our farmer members’ behalf to modernize the H-2A hiring process,” said Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau president.
“The new online filing system for H-2A visas will streamline this process, cutting burdensome red tape,” said Maureen Torrey of Torrey Farms. “I thank Rep. Hochul for her efforts to modernize this program, and bring efficiencies to farmers across Western New York.”
Last summer, Hochul met with Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris and farmers from throughout Western New York to discuss concerns with the H-2A program, including the need to make the application system available online. Hochul also pushed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to modernize the H-2A visa program and met with Deputy Assistant Secretary Gerri Fiala to stress the importance of this reform.
In addition, Rep. Hochul has actively worked to expand the H-2A program to include dairy farmers, who are currently prohibited from participating due to the industry’s year-round demands. Rep. Hochul has introduced bipartisan legislation to allow dairy farmers to participate in the H-2A program, to ensure Western New York dairy farms have adequate labor to increase production and meet the needs of the booming Greek Yogurt industry.
Nearly all of New York's 35,000 farms are family owned – making agricultural one of New York's top small-business industries – and making the need for a user-friendly, online H-2A application system even more critical.